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Equity in Coaching Declining as More Men Coach Women

Print Courtesy of NACWAA


University Park, Pa. – Female athletes are half as likely to have female coaches today than they were before enactment of Title IX in 1972, even though there are 10 times more female athletes to feed the pipeline to coaching, according to a Penn State study.


The study, "CAGE: The Coaching and Gender Equity Project," notes that the decline in female coaches is problematic because the quality of coaching would improve if larger numbers of men and women were in the coaching pool; that gender equity in coaching is declining while other professions are seeing increased gender equity, and that fewer female coaches means fewer role models and athletes may avoid sports-related professions entirely without good role models. "The ideal solution would be complete integration," says Dr. Robert Drago, professor of labor studies and industrial relations and women's studies. "A situation where student athletes – men or women – would be just as likely to have a female as a male coach." However, men's athletics has been a particularly hard area for women to gain access. Another approach would be men coaching men and women coaching women, but hiring specifically for this approach is illegal under traditional antidiscrimination laws and ultimately not desirable. But, in the short term, increasing the number of women coaching women is more realistic than aiming for total parity, the researchers say.


To determine ways to approach parity, the researchers, including Drago, Lynn Hennighausen, consultant; Jacqueline Rogers, professor and director of women's studies, Lehigh University; Teresa Vescio, associate professor of psychology and women's studies, and Kai Dawn Stauffer, doctoral student and research assistant, used focus groups of female coaches, focus groups of female athletes and census data on coaches. What they found from the census data is that women coaches are more likely to be employed part-time and their hourly wages are well below that of men. They also found that full-time coaches in general work very long hours compared to other workers and women coaches are far less likely than others to have partners or children. "The decline in coaching can be attributed to sex discrimination, extreme workloads, family-unfriendly jobs and the fact that race and sexual orientation remain important," says Drago. According to the coaches and athletes focus groups, after Title IX, coaching women athletes changed from a part-time or voluntary position to a "bread winner" job. The largely informal, poorly defined career track for coaches also created an atmosphere where "who you know" is more important than "what you know." More men wanted these good jobs and they knew the right people. "Another problem is that women athletes seem to favor male coaches over female ones, leading to a situation where female-coached teams are at a disadvantage in recruitment," says Drago.


The focus groups indicate that both coaches and athletes view the coaching job as out of control with too many hours, too many responsibilities and too many trips away from home. The study notes that "Many of the students believed that jobs in coaching were out of the question precisely because they rule out substantive commitments to family." Another problem is that the number of non-White female coaches is very small. While 16 percent of full-time male coaches are non-White, less than 10 percent of female coaches are non-White. However, about 30 percent of male and 20 percent of female athletes are non-White. "It appears that both male and female athletes of color are being lost in the pipeline to coaching at about twice the rate of white student athletes," says Drago. The Census data does show a high percentage – about 6 percent – of lesbians among women coaches, even though substantial discrimination in both hiring and in treatment if hired exists. The study suggests that colleges and universities should work to increase the number of women in the coaching pipeline; that they formalize hiring and decision-making processes, training and career paths. Institutions should seek to make coaching jobs more family friendly. And finally, provide a more inclusive environment within athletic departments, teams and organizations for women, people of color and individuals with non-traditional sexual orientation.


The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics administrators and Penn State funded this study.

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